The family dinner, the client luncheon, the holiday spreadthe idea of people coming together for a meal seems the most natural thing in the world. But that is certainly not the case for most other members of the animal kingdom. In Feast, archeologist Martin Jones presents both historic and modern scientific evidence to illuminate how prehistoric humans first came to share food and to trace the ways in which the human meal has shaped our cultural evolution.
Jones shows that by studying the activities of our closest animal relative, the chimpanzee, and by unearthing ancient hearths, some more than 30,000 years old, scientists have been able to piece together a picture of how our ancient ancestors found, killed, cooked, and divided food. In sites uncovered all over the world, fragments of bone, remnants of charred food, pieces of stone or clay serving vessels, and the outlines of ancient halls tell the story of how we slowly developed the complex traditions of eating we recognize in our own societies today. Jones takes us on a tour of the most fascinating sites and artifacts that have been discovered, and shows us how archeologists have made many fascinating discoveries. In addition, he traces the rise of such recent phenomena as biscuits, "going out to eat," and the Thanksgiving-themed TV dinner.
From the earliest evidence of human consumption around half a million years ago to the era of the drive-through diner, this fascinating account unfolds the history of the human meal and its profound impact on human society.
Why is it that humans make meals into ritual events while other animals just satisfy their hunger? To explore this question, Jones (archaeological science, Cambridge Univ.; The Molecule Hunt) offers a smooth chronological narrative from the earliest evidence of hominid eating habits right up to a 20th-century TV dinner. Each chapter begins with a short vignette suggested by archaeological remains, offering interpretations of the evidence that are precise but jargon-free. In presenting his thoughtful argument for the development of social and ritual meals, Martin skillfully lays a middle path between those who would explain everything by natural selection and those interested in the grammar of meaning systems. The book's greatest weakness is that he has skipped Asia entirely, missing out on developments from the domestication of rice to the elaborate culinary traditions and taboos of China, India, and Persia. Nonetheless, this highly readable book will be enjoyed by the general public as well as scholars. Recommended for large public libraries and all academic libraries.